I’ve always been interested in people. I love all those little online personality tests and quizzes and love to learn about what makes other people tick. I’m your typical sanguine – always wanting to be with people and not enjoying my own company very much. In fact – I pretty much hate being by myself – I get bored and need the people-to-people contact every day or I start to nosedive emotionally.
I also think that part of the reason why God gave me the kids that he did is because he knows how much people fascinate and interest me and he knows that I am the kind of person to dig deeper until I’m satisfied that I’ve learnt all that I can learn. Autism definitely adds a whole other layer to my kid’s personalities and a lot of the rules for typically developing kids don’t apply when you start to throw nuances like : sensory issues and still-developing social skills into the mix.
I have written a few times before about The Five Love Languages and how they helped me to better understand why Paul can be such a pain in the butt sometimes.
Whoops! Did I really write that?
What I MEANT to say was that learning about love languages helped me to realise that he does in fact love me but doesn’t (even close to) speak the same love language that I do.
In a nutshell – There are 5 languages.
1. Physical Touch (not sexual)
2. Words Of Affirmation
3. Quality Time
4. Giving and Receiving Gifts
5. Acts Of Service
And everyone has a primary love language and usually a secondary one or two as well. They are the way that we show others that we love them and what makes us feel loved the most.
For example: My primary love language is Words Of Affirmation with physical touch and quality time following closely behind. That means that I give love via what I speak and write to people. I am more aware than a lot of people of the absolute power that words can have on a relationship in either a negative or positive way. The best way to hurt me is to ignore me, use harsh or insulting words to speaking to me or to withhold kind and encouraging ones as well. I am careful what I write or say to people because of this. I am also a big hugger and I love to spend time with my friends.
(And amusingly enough – I hoped to churn this post out a few hours ago but I got waylaid by chatting to a friend making this a perfect illustration!)
But tonight’s post isn’t going to be about marriages, or any type of adult relationship but about my kids. Specifically about my relationships with each of them and how the love languages apply to them individually. And lately I’ve spent a lot of time peeling back the layers of my children’s individual personalities to try to discover the best and most effective ways that I can love them.
Ella’s primary love language is Quality Time which actually makes me sad because the boys tie me up so much that it’s often hard to give her much of it. But we have been consciously making the effort to go out on Mum/daughter days a lot more often than we used to. The downside is that she is at risk of feeling unloved if she doesn’t get enough quality time with either of us. There’s always room for improvement though and I am determined to give her what she needs.
Harley was a no-brainer for me. He is exactly the same as me – Words Of Affirmation and Physical Touch. He loves his cuddles and a compliment can make him float for days. Conversely though, like me – he also gets extremely hurt by unkindness and needs to be built up very frequently. Things that other kids could just shake off can stay with him for a long time and can do a lot of unnecessary damage. I understand the love languages side of Harley the most out of all of my kids but I am also regularly confused by how differently it presents on him compared to me. I think this has something to do with his wonderfully wired brain and how differently it processes things but I’m still working on figuring this one out.
And then there’s Lucas. He was a particularly difficult one for me to figure out. I had to do a number of quizzes on him until I had what I considered to be the correct answer but even now I’m still not 100% convinced. I asked him to tell me what I do that makes him feel the happiest and most loved.
I put it to him like this:
Would you prefer:
1. A cuddle and kiss? (Physical Touch)
2. A new toy (Giving And Receiving Gifts)
3. For Mummy to tell you how proud she is of you (Words Of Affirmation)
4. Mummy to spend the afternoon playing Trashies with you (Quality time)
5. For Mummy to clean your room up and make you a cake? (Acts Of Service).
He answered that a hug would be his favourite which interested me for a few reasons. Firstly because it was the very first scenario that I put to him (and perhaps the only one that he actually heard and processed) so to get a definitive answer, I put different scenarios to him mixing up the order each time, But each and every time – it was Physical Touch that won out. The other reason that this surprised me was because every time that I hug Lucas – he only stays in my lap for mere seconds before jumping off again in another Tiggerific bouncing episode.
So now – I’m wondering how much of a part that both of the boy’s sensory processing difficulties play in the way that they give and receive love and how much autism affects their ability to feel loved and safe when they need it most. I’ll explain further:
When Harley becomes overwhelmed by too much noise, too much light or by strong smells – he can’t stand to be touched at all and he becomes aggressive and sometimes violent and screams out the most awful things. And it’s the same when he’s in the middle of a meltdown.
He has described to me on a good day that when people try to talk to him when he’s in that state that the human voice aggravates and irritates him more than any other sound. I find that incredibly fascinating. Especially since any other time – Harley is incredibly affectionate and very generous with his hugs and kind words.
And Lucas – well he is similar to Harley in that he also cannot stand to be touched if he’s overwhelmed or melting down – and he says that the human touch actually makes his skin feel like its burning. But here’s what I find amazing – As Lucas is coming down from an episode – he is OVERLY generous with hugs and climbs into my lap and wraps my arms around him refusing to leave.
So the things that bring them comfort and calm them on a good day are actually the same things that can escalate an explosion on a bad day.
I already have huge amounts of much respect for all individuals on the autism spectrum but now: WOW! It has gone up a few hundred notches. I’m sure that there are bundles and bundles of undiscovered information and so many more layers to peel back still for my children and I know that I have SO much more to learn about all of this.
The exciting part?
It has become like a neat little project for me….. Bring on 2013!